I really loved Sleep Tight, the latest film from [REC] co-director Jaume Balagueró. It’s the kind of film where, where I’ve taken the Blu-ray round to show to friends, I’ve forbidden them from reading the back before watching it.
I may even have put bags over their heads while the menu screen played out. Nothing but the best at one of my movie nights, eh?
But we are going to fly in the face of that secrecy here and share some insight into the film from one of its most valuable players. You have been warned.
Some months back, Hannah Shaw-Williams, formerly of this parish, sat down with Luis Tosar, the actor who plays Sleep Tight‘s lead character, Cesar. He’s… a creepy guy. In the film, that is. In real life, he’s just incredibly intense.
In a somewhat characteristic move, Shaw-Williams ended up breaking the device on which she had recorded the audio of this char. Now, though, some months later, she’s managed to dig the file out, and has transcribed it for us. That’s worth at least a round of applause, I think.
Bleeding Cool: The first third of the film portrays César as quite a sympathetic character. Would you say that there’s still an element of that left by the end of the film?
Luis Tosar: [laughs] The film, in a way, cheats because it makes you walk with a character and relate to this character, who is clearly not a very nice person. Then suddenly it starts changing until he becomes openly evil, and obviously by that time it’s too late, and you have to kind of go back and change your mind.
BC: What kind of preparation did you do for the role?
LT: I just thought about … what happens if you have no empathy whatsoever. It’s an everyday kind of horror that you’re looking into, and this horror could come from someone that you see every day, it doesn’t have to come from a monster with big claws.
BC: What is the significance of César hiding under the bed? Obviously that’s something that a lot of kids are afraid of, so it’s quite a primal fear.
LT: The fact that the fear is so close makes it all the more powerful. Just the very fact that you’re afraid there might be someone hiding under the bed makes you not want to look underneath the bed.
BC: In most films, I think it’s fair to say, the protagonist is seeking happiness in one form or another. That’s what drives them. But César says that he is incapable of happiness so, therefore, was it difficult to find the right emotion to express when he triumphs at the end of the film?
LT: Good question. I filmed that scene … hoping it could be helped by the editor. There was a filmmaker called Kuleshov who actually proved in an experiment that by having the same shot followed and preceded by different shots, you could create different emotions depending on how you edited it together. So I hoped that the Kuleshov effect would help. [Laughs] I’m not a very good actor, but at least I know film theory.
BC: Do you think César is an asexual character, or does he genuinely have feelings for Clara?
LT: Although there is this relationship between them, he has no sexual attraction towards her. The means that he uses to get to her are sexual, but it’s not his primary concern.
BC: How do you go about getting into the character of a psychopath? Because that state of mind is quite alien to that of a normal person.
LT: I have a natural interest in the dark side of human beings and in this case, as an actor, it’s an interesting character to explore. I consider myself to be a normal person – not a bad person – but I have an attraction to playing with that side, with the dangerous territory that human beings can sometimes walk on. What I tried to do was to play the character as though I was in the situation, and how I would feel if I was in that situation. It’s a funny kind of situation, because it’s playful and I was playing with it, but it’s also pretty scary. Part of the preparation that I was doing for the role was to actually speak out my mind as though I was the character, so instead of mincing my words and saying, “Excuse me…” or something I would say, “Fuck you, motherfucker!” I would bring out the negative elements and spew them up.
BC: Within the film there are a number of subplots that are set up in a certain way and, because of the twist that happens in the middle, are paid off in ways that are very different to what the audience might expect. Would you say that the film is split into two halves, with the second half being a much darker mirror of the first?
LT: Yes, at the beginning of film you project an image – and [César] projects an image – which is politically correct. That’s what you get, as viewer, towards the beginning. But then towards the end the character starts speaking out his mind, and therefore I start bring the evil side of him, and speaking his mind, and he’s doing that out of desperation because nothing else he’s doing is working out.
BC: Finally, was it a relief when you finished the film, or did you miss the character?
LT: I certainly didn’t miss him, but it wasn’t a relief to finish. I had a lot of fun.
And so did I. Thanks to Hannah and Luis for taking the time to have this chat.